Amiga Shopper was a ground breaking magazine when it was first launched in 1991. At the time the Amiga was seen as a game machine, the launch of a serious magazine that did not cover games was a finger up to the doubting Thomas'. In place of games coverage, Amiga Shopper paid a great deal of attention to the Public Domain market. At the time PD was a growing phenomenon, revered in the same fashion that free software is now. The death of its sister title, 'Public Domain' left a gap in the 16-bit press that Amiga Shopper were more than eager to fill. An area that eventually led to the publication of the Amiga Shopper PD Directory. Over the first 4 years the magazine built up a reputation for its approachable technical coverage. A solid attempt was also made to educate beginners and bring them up to speed. Reviews were several pages long, comparing the product to PC and Macintosh equivalents. The theory was that professional users wanted software that could compete in the market place, not just the Amiga market but the entire computer industry.
In 1993, Amiga Shopper made a controversial decision, introducing an irregular coverdisk to complement tutorials found in the magazine. While many readers welcomed the move, there were a few die-hard readers who saw it as 'selling out' by imitating the styles of other magazines. There was a fear that if the coverdisk became a regular feature, the quality of writing would drop. A fear that seemed to be confirmed two years later. By 1994 the magazine had made the slow evolution from mostly black and white to full colour. This allowed them to show the graphical side of the Amiga, with numerous tutorials showing the reader how to create a Babylon 5 fighter in different 3D applications. Along with every other Amiga magazine, the Commodore liquidation hit the magazine hard as consumers began to lose confidence in the fading giant. However, the writers were not prepared to take this lying down. They began to devote space to articles that would improve the Amigas situation, asking the likes of Microsoft and Quark if they had any plans to release to port their applications to the Amiga. They also published the infamous Amiga Tapes covering the industry's thought at the time. The parent company was dead but the Amiga users still wanted to learn how to use their machine.
Towards the end of 1994, the death of Commodore had affected confidence in the market. In comparison to a readership of 45,290 during Jan-June 1993, the magazine sales figures seemed tiny. The publisher had two solutions open to them- either, close the magazine or relaunch it to cover a larger market appeal. Thankfully they chose the former, and the February 1995 issue saw the biggest redesign in the magazine's history. Aesthetically the magazine looked very similar to its sister titles, Amiga Format and Power. The Amiga logo extended across the top of the page, while the smaller 'Shopper' was justified to the right below. The magazines' wider coverage focussed upon particular issues of concern for the reader, such as choosing a word processor. Rather than being aimed at professional users who already had some experience with Amiga software, the magazine took a step back to cover more generalized areas. The price increased to £3.95 (UKP) and regular cover disks were introduced. To gain more readers the magazine began to cover mount commercial applications every issue, ranging from Money Matters 4 to Turbo Print 4.1 Lite. This was soon followed by the employment of David Taylor, who quickly increased the amount of material on the coverdisk, through the use of LZX and DiskSpare to fit 6 disks of compressed data onto two.
The magazine had dramatically changed. Under the editorship of Sue Grant they had begun to cover areas that had remained untouched in the past, such as how to get more from the Shell and combating viruses. As the magazine passed its 50th birthday it took a hardware slant, covering more general one-off tutorials, such as how to connect to the Internet, add a CD-ROM drive, or an LCD display. After Amiga Shoppers' death, the DIY coverage was quickly adopted by CU Amiga. Die-hard fans immediately rejected the magazine because of its abandonment of the complex issues behind the Amiga, to concentrate on the simplest, most appealing areas. Its glossiness was also criticized as superficial. However, the writers were more concerned with keeping the magazine alive than worrying about the few objectors. Such noble intentions did not stop former readers from announcing the magazine's death.
The doomsayers were not wrong. A few months after Escom bought the Amiga they begun to suffer financial problems. Many blamed it on the Amiga curse, but the truth was that the Amiga had little to do with it. The financial ineptitude and boardroom fallout's had forced Escom into liquidation and the Amiga was once again without an owner. As 1996 progressed, signs of stunted development became increasingly obvious. The page count dropped from 116 to 100 pages, and then spiraled down to 76. Staff cut backs were having an effect. Editor Sue Grant departed, to be replaced by David Taylor. The well known Journalists that had pushed the magazine forward had all left for pastures new, forcing writers from Amiga Format to lend a hand. The increased competition from the suddenly CD-ROM enabled Amiga Format and CU Amiga also had a startling effect, causing the readership to plummet every six months. It had become clear that the magazine did not have much time left.
The last issue was just 52 pages and had a circulation of just 16,473. The magazines' death was slow and painful extending over most of 1996. The quality of writing had also dropped. Facing new jobs, many of the writers no longer cared about where the Amiga market was going at the time. News of the A\Box and PIOS are notable by their absence.
To an extent the market could no longer handle a technical-only magazine. In comparison to other Amiga magazines that were sprouting CDs on their cover, the floppy-only magazine had no chance (a lesson that Amiga Computing would soon learn). The pressure for mass market appeal forced the niche magazine to become a poor imitation of Amiga Format, forgetting their unique qualities that had attracted so many loyal readers. For many, Amiga Shopper had been dead since issue 47 and a poor impersonation had been using its name, but it was still a shock when the end came. The only saving grace was the fact that it was not incorporated into Amiga Format. Unfortunately, it would take two years for Amiga Format to begin to learn from the example set by Amiga Shopper. Perhaps in some part the spirit of Amiga Shopper has survived.